Sunday, August 31, 2008

Condé Nast Outshines the Rest Despite Itself

It's no secret the print media world is morphing, struggling and fighting for dear life. Floating mostly above this thrashing mass of 'old media' is the Condé Nast squad of flagships. The New York Times recently published an excellent story on how chairman Si Newhouse quietly manages his empire. As evidence of the Newhouse family's winning formula, Vanity Fair, Wired, New Yorker and Vogue and Condé Nast Traveler are all defying the brutal gravity of media's current undertow.

But some of these titles have also had their share of recent negative PR, from the New Yorker's Obama terrorist fist bump cover, to Italian Vogue's 'Black Issue' and U.S. Vogue's LeBron James cover. Many thought the fist bump cover was insensitive in its inadvertent fanning of the prejudicial flames this political season. The Italian Vogue issue celebrated the beauty and diversity of the black form, but was seen as patronizing and too little too late for a title that historically sidelined minority models. And the over-the-top imagery of the James cover was compared to a poster of King Kong and Fay Ray. Not the best look.

From my perspective, it seems a few more faces of color in the executive/creative ranks at Condé Nast — and across the media spectrum — would go a long way to smooth out or all together avoid these types of gaffs. Nevertheless, according to the Times piece, Condé Naste seems to welcome the controversy, in any form. As always, it sells. After several weeks, I finally found a second printing of the 'Black Issue' at a NY newsstand. The first printing had completely sold out.

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